Webinars are an increasingly popular way of reaching an audience in the digital age for all sorts of group communications. Think of them like events with the venue in cyberspace.
Whether you’re pitching products, conducting market research, doing training or morale-building within organizations, or hosting a live lecture in an educational environment – learning how to host a successful webinar can be a key skill to have under your belt.
Their live content style makes them highly engaging to each audience member, and using them regularly can steadily build up whole catalogues of content to draw back on and refer to in the future.
Even though webinars are very powerful communication tools, there are certainly insights to gain and pitfalls to avoid before trying to jump right into the world of content marketing with webinars.
It’s a good idea to gain some familiarity with them, and if you’re reading this article you’re off to a good start!
The term ‘webinar’ comes from ‘web-based seminar’, it’s an online live presentation generally for informative purposes.
On a technical level they are live streams of video and audio usually with some interactive tools for the audience to engage with, such as asking questions, live-chat amongst each other (sometimes), and even more advanced features like breakout sessions or whiteboards. There are a number of platforms that can facilitate the technical aspects of putting together and hosting a webinar.
But here we’re going to be going over mostly the marketing and strategy that goes into hosting successful webinars to meet your goals.
Webinars fundamentally need an established target audience before you start using them. If you do not yet have a list of registered attendees for your webinar; you are putting the cart before the horse because webinars are about conversion in digital marketing lingo.
So what does conversion mean? Conversion means you have people who are already interested enough to listen to you, and you are trying to convince them to change their behaviour a little.
This can mean you are trying to convince them to buy or use a product, or maybe you’re trying to teach them something valuable, like company policy or even safety training. If you have a message that’s going to click and cause an ‘ah-ha’ moment in your attendees’ minds, then hosting a webinar is a great way to deliver that point.
This is because successful webinars actually go further than just conversion. Webinars are live events by nature, and because of this they provide engagement with your audience as well as conversion.
Any video file can provide audiences with information, but seeing the event live and being able to interact with it as it’s happening is a deep part in what makes webinars some of the most successful marketing tools in the digital age.
Webinars don’t make the approach for you. While they’re great marketing tools; they’re not really advertising. You can’t rely on random folks to stumble upon your webinar; you have to build up a list of people registered for your webinar before launching your webinar in order to take the first step towards hosting a successful webinar.
While there isn’t one specific line that tells you when you can and when you cannot use a webinar and hope for any success, there is a general design flow that most successful webinar instructors tend to follow.
Webinars are an important step in digital marketing, but they’re not the first step. You actually have to market your webinar first before hosting one as a live online event.
It’s recommended to write a few blog posts about the topic of your webinar, and to post about it across social media for lead generation in order to gain some registered attendees. You can, of course, use word of mouth and email lists to promote as well.
Online events can have attendees across the globe, so don’t forget about time-zones.
Just in the USA the coasts are 4 hours apart. If you have audience members on opposite sides of the globe to each other, you may have to reschedule two runs of your webinar if you can’t make the schedule fit. It’s better to have two separate good ones than one that no one can attend.
While it is possible to produce, host, and moderate a webinar just by yourself, it’s recommended to at least get a moderator and a guest speaker to help you out and add production value to your event.
Having a great speaker is probably the core of what you are going to build your whole team and presentation around. You could invite a guest speaker or the speaker could be you.
If you’re marketing your webinar before hand, it’s a good idea to find a topic that searches well, and then stick to that topic for the remainder of marketing and launching your webinar. This is valuable content you are generating here and you will want it to have good SEO to rank well.
There are plenty of platforms to choose from to launch a webinar from. Unfortunately there are a lot of bad choices to make out of the available selection that will give you technical difficulties and all kinds of headaches.
You will want to select a webinar platform that’s been designed around high quality audio video streaming and hosting. Samba Live is a complete platform that seamlessly integrates users with the media content and the interactive suite of tools to engage your audience with.
It’s a good idea not to wing it. You have all the preparation time you want to come up with great content that covers all your important topics. However, webinars specifically can open up a lot more possibilities than other presentation formats.
You should consider using different media formats in your webinar, because you can. Webinars can seamlessly include video files and screen sharing as well as live video into the presentation. You don’t just have to stick with presentation slides – though you can do that too.
Another thing you should keep in mind is retention and engagement. Attention spans from audience members are preciously short these days, so after 20 or so minutes of hearing someone talk, you may have audience members get distracted or sometimes outright leave if they’re bored.
Luckily, if you plan on periodically engaging the audience with polling questions, or if you’re practiced enough to be able to answer live questions in real-time on the fly, this keeps them much more engaged. TIP: If you have a co-moderator, they can help you manage the audience's questions without you getting distracted from delivering your message.
Preparation is key. You’re going to want to go over your webinar topics several times live, as if the audience was there. When you dry run your presentation before the day of the webinar you are both testing your technical setup as well as practicing and honing your skills for the presentation on the big day.
Like with all live events, things aren’t ever entirely in your control. You could be asked a question you never thought of before, or you could lose power - but that's part of what makes live events so much more engaging than simply watching a recording.
The more you practice, and the more you know your material and the better you will be at turning lemons into lemonade when something unexpected happens.